Ever since Ana Uribe-Ruiz’s son was 2, planes have been a part of his life. The 9-year-old aviation enthusiast, who also happens to have Autism Spectrum Disorder, has flown in planes with his parents all around the world from Europe to Latin America.
Moving three years ago from New Jersey to California, which boasts ideal flying conditions, allowed Uribe-Ruiz’s husband to get back into flying and allowed her to begin taking lessons to work her way toward achieving her private pilot’s license.
Although her son Jose-Maria has yet to ride in the plane with his mother, he gradually is working his way up to someday riding with his mother into the clouds. The step-by-step process began when he asked to touch an airplane, then he helped to park the planes and one week ago her son asked to sit inside a plane.
“When you teach a child to swim you don’t push them to put their head under the water until they’re really ready,” said Uribe-Ruiz. “So they play with the water, they splash the water and then when they’re ready they put their head under.”
While he may not be ready to go up in the air, having such a love for everything aviation is very important. “When you have a child like mine they like some things, they don’t like other things,” Uribe-Ruiz said. “For him, it’s a way of understanding what is up in the air; usually 3-dimensional things take a little longer to learn, and this is something he loves.”
Uribe-Ruiz typically flies about two or three times a week with her instructor. One of the most difficult aspects of flying is landing. “The hardest thing about learning to fly versus driving a car is it’s a three dimensional problem not a two dimensional problem,” said Steve Blonstein, chief pilot at West Valley Flying Club. Additionally, unlike when driving a car, wind can push around a plane making it difficult to land.
“When you land a plane, if the wind isn’t coming straight down the runway, it’s coming from some funny angle, you have to compensate for that,” Blonstein said. “Your hands and your feet and your head all have to work together at the same time in a coordinated fashion.”
The best thing to do, according to Uribe-Ruiz, is to practice a lot.
The cost of flying though is no small endeavor. According to Blonstein, the road to getting a private pilot license runs about $12,000 to $15,000 with about 70 hours of flying time. A private pilot’s license allows an individual to fly friends and family. Some people, however, just have the aviation gene and this cost is inconsequential. “Only a small percent of people have this aviation gene and you can tell; they’re the ones who always look up at the sky as a plane goes by,” Blonstein said.
For Uribe-Ruiz, one of the most important things to consider in preparation to taking flying classes is choosing a good school and instructor. “When you have a teacher who can express and pass along the information to you, things are much easier,” Uribe-Ruiz said. After much research, she chose West Valley Flying Club, which has been in operation since 1973. “There’s lots of flying clubs around, most of them are for-profit businesses so there is someone in that organization or some group of people who are trying to run it to make money,” said Blonstein. “What makes our organization neat is no one’s trying to make money.”
As a nonprofit organization, the flying club is active in the community and works with disadvantaged teens interested in getting into and becoming part of the aviation industry. The flying club also is involved with Angel Flight, which uses private pilots and planes to transport sick children to area hospitals.
Once Uribe-Ruiz gets her private pilot’s license, she said she would like to someday have her own plane. With property in Tennessee, she would like to fly her family there. But it all depends on when her son is ready to take that next step and venture into the air with his mother. “When he is ready he will fly with us.”